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How Important was Little Rock as a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement?

One way in which the Little Rock Crisis can be considered a turning point is that some Southern cities like Raleigh and Atlanta learned that resistance to integration harmed business. So they avoided large-scale civil rights disturbances by integrating. Despite only 49 more school districts desegregating in Eisenhower’s last three years in office, compared to 712 in the three years after Brown, this small number of notable desegregations assisted civil rights and the desegregation of the education campaign by beginning the trend and provoking other Southern schools to desegregate too.

Another result of the Little Rock Crisis of 1957, which fuelled further desegregation of schools, was that the scenes of violence and racism outside Central High School helping to influence moderate white opinion in support of civil rights. For example, on September 4th, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford was greeted by a mob screaming, ‘lynch her! Lynch her!’ The whole of the Little Rock Nine was continually abused, spat on, tripped. Melba Pattillo was nearly blinded by a chemical thrown in her eyes. This array of violence sparked an increase in civil rights protestors. Also, it led to the Supreme Court decision that any law that sought to keep public schools segregated was unconstitutional in Cooper v. Aaron 1958.

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This new stance aided the desegregation of schools, as it was now known that segregation of education was unconstitutional. However, the Little Rock Crisis caused huge resistance from local and national authorities towards desegregation. Faubus did what Eisenhower had feared and closed many Southern schools instead of integrating. White parents sent their children to fee-paying all-white schools, which prevented desegregation. With desegregation causing so much turmoil, any desegregation which did occur happened at a snail’s pace. It was 1972 before all Little Rock schools were integrated. So the resistance and violence which spawned from the Little Rock Crisis slowed desegregation; by 1964, only 2-3% of black children were enrolled in desegregated schools.

The negative connotations of the Little Rock Crisis influenced many white voters into repeatedly re-electing Orval Faubus due to his actions of dividing Arkansas along the colour line. As a result, industrial development grounded to a halt. In 1957, the city attracted 8 new plants worth $3 million; in 1958, there were no new plants. Teacher morale plummeted, and Little Rock’s assistant poice chief shot his wife and himself due to the pressure of trying to implement desegregation. With this, Faubus won six terms in office due to his anti-integration policies, popular amongst whites.

Therefore, Faubus’ presence in the office, due to the effects of the Little Rock Crisis, slowed any desegregation as Faubus influenced segregation in schools: demonstrated through his decision to station National Guardsmen outside Central High on September 2. Finally, the Little Rock Crisis can be considered a watershed in terms of desegregation in schools as although little progress was made initially; exemplified through the lack of blacks attending desegregated schools (123 out of 7000 black children attended desegregated schools), the Little Rock Crisis showed how segregation could not survive, and change was imminent. But also, that to make further gains against Jim Crow would have to fight community by community.

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How Important was Little Rock as a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement?. (2021, Sep 03). Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/how-important-was-little-rock-as-a-turning-point-in-the-civil-rights-movement/